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(Un)happy transition? Subjective Well-being in European Countries in 1991-2008 and Beyond

  • Jirí Vecerník
  • Martina Mysíková

This paper contributes to the debate about the impact of the transition to subjective well-being. After reviewing the relevant literature the authors draw on the surveys of the European Values Study between 1991 and 2008 to describe the trends in life satisfaction in 13 "Western" and 11 "Eastern" countries. The analysis finds that life satisfaction levels in transition countries have come to approach those in the West: the "rather unhappy" 1990s were followed by the "rather happy" 2000s. The correlation between life satisfaction and GDP reflects this process of convergence: the two separate lines in 1991 merge to become a single continuum later on. The characteristics of respondents are however more important than GDP, and a regression of life satisfactions with basic demographic and stratification variables shows their reinforcing effect in both Eastern and Western countries. As a result, the explained variance of life satisfaction was increasing. The findings of other surveys reporting on developments of attitudes since 2008 vary but are far from proving a uniform negative impact of economic recession on life satisfaction. The paper concludes by suggesting that various surveys have to be compared in order to obtain more reliable information on the development and factors of subjective well-being.

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Paper provided by WIFO in its series WIFO Working Papers with number 467.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: 09 Apr 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wfo:wpaper:y:2014:i:467
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  1. BARTOLINI Stefano & MIKUCKA Malgorzata & SARRACINO Francesco, 2012. "Money, Trust and Happiness in Transition Countries: Evidence from Time Series," LISER Working Paper Series 2012-04, LISER.
  2. Gruen, Carola & Klasen, Stephan, 2012. "Has transition improved well-being?," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 11-30.
  3. Sergei Guriev & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2007. "(Un)Happiness in Transition," Working Papers w0111, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  4. Astra Bonini, 2008. "Cross-National Variation in Individual Life Satisfaction: Effects of National Wealth, Human Development, and Environmental Conditions," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 87(2), pages 223-236, June.
  5. Hayo, Bernd & Seifert, Wolfgang, 2002. "Subjective economic well-being in Eastern Europe," IBES Diskussionsbeiträge 120, University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute of Business and Economic Studie (IBES).
  6. Easterlin, Richard A. & Plagnol, Anke C., 2008. "Life satisfaction and economic conditions in East and West Germany pre- and post-unification," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(3-4), pages 433-444, December.
  7. Peter Sanfey & Utku Teksoz, 2007. "Does transition make you happy?," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 15, pages 707-731, October.
  8. Campos, Nauro F & Coricelli, Fabrizio, 2002. "Growth in Transition: What we Know, What we Don't and What we Should," CEPR Discussion Papers 3246, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
  10. Paul Frijters & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2004. "Investigating the Patterns and Determinants of Life Satisfaction in Germany Following Reunification," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(3).
  11. BARTOLINI Stefano & BILANCINI Ennio & SARRACINO Francesco, 2010. "Predicting the Trend of Well-Being in Germany: How Much Do Comparisons, Adaptation and Sociability Matter?," LISER Working Paper Series 2010-07, LISER.
  12. Dabalen, Andrew & Paul, Saumik, 2011. "History of events and life-satisfaction in transition countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5526, The World Bank.
  13. Selezneva, Ekaterina, 2011. "Surveying transitional experience and subjective well-being: Income, work, family," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 139-157, June.
  14. Martina Mysíková & Jiří Večerník, 2013. "Job satisfaction across Europe: differences between and within regions," Post-Communist Economies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(4), pages 539-556, December.
  15. Easterlin, Richard A., 2009. "Lost in transition: Life satisfaction on the road to capitalism," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 130-145, August.
  16. Paul Frijters & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2004. "Money Does Matter! Evidence from Increasing Real Income and Life Satisfaction in East Germany Following Reunification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 730-740, June.
  17. Luca Stanca, 2010. "The Geography of Economics and Happiness: Spatial Patterns in the Effects of Economic Conditions on Well-Being," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 99(1), pages 115-133, October.
  18. John F. Helliwell, 2002. "How's Life? Combining Individual and National Variables to Explain Subjective Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 9065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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